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Ball is no stranger to creating watches tied to modes of transportation. They’re most commonly associated with the railroads, as that’s where the company got its start over a hundred years ago. What people may not be as familiar with are their ties to aerospace. Ball has been partnered with Brian Binnie (the pilot of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipOne) for some time now, and have developed features to help watches withstand the shocks of rockets firing.

The first development they added to their latest watch, the Engineer Hydrocarbon Spacemaster Orbital II, is the Amortiser. This is a ring around the movement to protect it from shocks, as well as providing magnetism resistance. This system also includes a switch on the case back which will lock the rotor in place, preventing it from spinning. Basically with this, if you’re going to go do something that you know will generate a lot of shocks (say, launching in a space ship or swinging a hammer) you can prevent the rotor from spinning wildly (well, at all), which will further protect the movement.

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Of course, the watch will still continue to run, relying on the power reserve. Once the activities are complete, you can then unlock the rotor and let it do its job. This does seem like a pretty clever work-around for a problem that would impact (no pun intended) the watch, and helps to ensure robustness. I wonder how long it will be until we see that switch become something automatic, much like your seat belt will lock into place when the car suddenly decelerates. The switch is nice, but something automatic would be just plain cool.

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That movement (caliber RR1404) offers quite a host of complications as well. Obviously, you’ve got the main time display and the date readout. It also features a chronograph (with up to 12 hours of accumulated timing) and a GMT hand which can be set independently of the main time. The watch also includes a compass, in the form of the bi-directional bezel. If you take a look, you’ll notice larger pads at the four cardinal points carrying the compass directions. The bezel then has markings for every 15 degrees (dropping your eyes to the rehaut ring will gain you a 5-degree resolution).

So, how do you use the watch as a compass? Well, unlike, say, the GMT hand, this one requires some work on your part. You start by taking the watch off, and pointing the hour hand at the sun. In the northern hemisphere, you then rotate the South marker to a position exactly halfway between the local hour hand and 12 o’clock. At this point, you’ve got a fairly decent approximation of which direction is which, and you can plot your course, and then strap the watch back on.

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Once things get dark though, you’re a bit out of luck (at least when it comes to figuring out a direction). You’re definitely not out of luck when it comes to reading the watch, though, as it’s got a total of 39 micro-tubes lighting it up, as well as the application of traditional luminous paint. While I’ve not handled a Ball watch myself, I’ve used other tritium-equipped watches, and they’re definitely something fun to see. Ball takes this to a whole other level, however, just by the sheer volume of tubes utilized and the writing out of segmented numerals on many models.

This is definitely a larger watch (45mm diameter, 18.3mm thick), but it should be lighter than you’d expect, being as it’s made out of titanium. Between the AR-coated sapphire crystal, the patented crown-lock system, and their Armortiser, this is a watch that can stand up to a variety of abuse and conditions (see the tech specs below), all for $5,300.

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Tech Specs from Ball

  • Model Number: DC3036C-SA-BK
  • Movement: Automatic caliber BALL RR1404
    • Functions: 39 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second hands, dial and pushers for night reading capability
    • Chronograph with accumulated measurement up to 12 hours
    • Illuminated second time zone indication
    • Shock resistant to 7,500Gs
    • Anti-magnetic to 4,800A/m
    • Water resistant to 100m/330ft
    • Hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds and magnified date
  • Case: Titanium
    • Ø 45mm, height 18.3mm
    • Illuminated bidirectional rotating bezel
    • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
    • Patented crown protection system
    • Amortiser ® patented anti-shock system
  • Band: Tapered titanium and stainless steel bracelet with patented folding buckle & extension system
  • Dial: Black
  • Price: $5,300

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